Media Practice Makes Perfect
posted by July 10 at 9:00 AMon
The New York Times comes out strongly against Dr. James Holsinger, George W. Bush’s nominee to be the next surgeon general. While noting that Holsinger holds some positions that could be regarded as progressive—not anti-cloning in all instances, supports higher cigarette taxes—the NYT slams the fundy doctor for a controversial paper he wrote about the gays back in 1991. Written for a church publication, not a scientific publication, Holsinger’s paper—“Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality”—argued that gay sex is abnormal and unhealthy, and “that anal sex can lead to rectal injuries and sexually transmitted diseases,” in the words of the NYT.
Of course gay anal sex can lead to rectal injuries and spread sexually transmitted disease—but so can straight anal sex, which is increasingly popular:
Every couple of years, another once-scandalous sex taboo starts making its way toward the commonplace. A decade ago, blow jobs were what people whispered about; then three-ways became the naughty bedroom act. Now, it’s anal sex—but according to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Survey of Family Growth, it’s rapidly becoming a regular feature of hetero couples’ horizontal activities.
The survey, released last year, showed that 38.2 percent of men between 20 and 39 and 32.6 percent of women ages 18 to 44 engage in heterosexual anal sex. Compare that with the CDC’s 1992 National Health and Social Life survey, which found that only 25.6 percent of men 18 to 59 and 20.4 percent of women 18 to 59 indulged in it.
Naturally, Holsinger is a proponent of abstinence education (like a certain hooker-banging GOP senator that I would mention by name if God hadn’t already forgiven him), or sex-ed that seeks to prevent sexual activity by keeping people ignorant about sex and terrifying them with horror stories about STDs and injuries that could be prevented with good technique and proper lubrication.
Amazingly… the NYT, uh, goes there. They call Holsinger out not only on his gay bashing but on… well, let’s just go to the editorial:
Dr. Holsinger did not brand the large number of heterosexual women who engage in anal sex as abnormal, failed to acknowledge the huge burden of disease spread heterosexually and implied that women are more likely than men to avoid injuries with generous lubrication.
Whoa… generous lubrication. I’m sure Americans enjoyed reading that over breakfast.
Unfortunately this otherwise stellar editorial is marred by the use of the term “homosexual” to describe the gays—which some people have a problem with—and the archaic phrase “practicing homosexual” to describe, um, all those gay buttfuckers out there using generous amounts of lube to avoid injuring all those fucked gay butts. Says Michelangelo Signorile…
Let’s all write the Times and let them know that we are not a coven of witches “practicing” our craft. Nor are we a group of kids “practicing” our playing of musical instruments, or “practicing” gymnastics or “practicing” French! And we are not lawyers, doctors or accountants, who decide to hang out a shingle when we want to “practice.” All of these are religious beliefs, learned activities, and business professions. The implication is: “Homosexuals” are “practicing” their cultish, acquired, and/or often for-sale (those gay hustlers!) sexual “practices” while heterosexuals, of course, are doing something much more, well, natural and about love or whatever.
Just by using that term, the editorial undermines the very point it is trying to make. Holsinger has been attacked for supporting a church that reportedly believes in “ex-gay” therapies and he clearly believes that people can be “indoctrinated” into homosexuality. Describing homosexuality as something you can “practice” it until you get it right sure goes a long way toward helping Holsinger’s cause.
UPDATE: Uh, gee. I’m on vacation, and perhaps I shouldn’t be posting at all. My kid was tugging at my arm and trying to shut my laptop when I was writing this, and I wasn’t finished, and I didn’t mean to post it until after I got back from lunch. But I saved it as a scheduled post and not a draft and it posted itself while I was at lunch. Whoops.
Anyway, I meant to include my own thoughts after the item from Signorile’s blog, and what I wanted to add was this…
The NYT editorial was the lead freakin’ editorial, and it was righteous and pro-homo, practicing and otherwise, and perhaps we shouldn’t jump down the throats of our allies—and the editorial column at the NYT is certainly a friend of the ‘mos—too aggressively because, hey, their generously lubricated hearts are in the right places.
But I think Signorile has a point: it is jarring to see “practicing homosexual” in an otherwise supportive editorial from the always-suportive NYT. The term is kinda stoopid for the reasons Signorile ticks off, and someone should nudge the editors at the NYT about it. I can’t imagine it was intentional or mean-spirited. But I don’t think we need to flood their offices with outraged letters. I mean, it’s hard to imagine the NYT writing an editorial like that—coming to the defense of the ‘mos, copping to hetero anal sex, endorsing generous lubrication—ten years ago. It was breathtaking and progressive and right fucking on.
One other quibble: “Dr. Holsinger did not brand the large number of heterosexual women who engage in anal sex…” Unless all those heterosexual women are engaging in anal sex with, er, other heterosexual women, there are large numbers of heterosexual men out there engaging in anal sex too—as active and passive partners. So today it’s “generous lubrication” in a NYT editorial. I can’t imagine we’ll have to wait much longer before they NYT editorial page gets pegged.